Monday, May 29, 2017

Thai Mango Chicken Salad

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Okay, so I may be a little hung up on salads right now. After all, it IS summer and the produce is so nice and cool and refreshing right now.  However... my kiddos don't necessarily share my enthusiasm yet.  I can see a lot of head bobs from the moms out there.  This chicken with Thai peanut sauce does double duty as a fantastic salad and as fun skewers for the kids at your table who may not be down with the salad idea.  The ones at my house finished off every bit of the grilled chicken skewers that were left with rave reviews!  

If you are short on time, don't sweat it, you can always pick up a jar of Thai peanut dressing in the Asian isle of your favorite grocery store.  But for those of you who like to know exactly what's in your food, it really is NOT hard to make at all.  You will seriously be the envy of your office if you bring this salad for lunch.. so bring extra! 


Ingredients: (4 servings)
  • One pack of chicken breasts
    • Monterey chicken seasoning
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1 Tbsp ginger paste
    • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • Thai Peanut Dressing
    • 1 cup light coconut milk
    • 1/2 cup chicken broth
    • 2 tsp red curry paste
    • 1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
    • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
    • 3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
    • 1/2 - 1 tsp sambal oelek
    • 1 tsp corn starch
    • Couple pinches of kosher salt to finish
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Mango chunks, diced
  • Red pepper strips
  • Rice noodles
  • Chopped peanuts
  • Cole slaw mix
  • Cucumber strips
Step-by-Step Photos:
Here's the plan of attack.  Get the chicken marinating in all this goodness.  Make the dressing.  Grill the chicken.  Make the salad.  Bam!  

I.  Marinate the chicken.
This is nothing more complicated than 1 - season, and 2 - mix.  The lime juice and coconut milk with help tenderize the chicken while it marinates and we make the dressing.  Using the Monterey chicken seasoning lets us get away with using only one seasoning rather than several (a real time saver here).
Season liberally with Monterey chicken seasoning

1/2 cup coconut milk
1 1/2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
If you can't find this ginger paste, use finely chopped, peeled ginger.  But I promise you, this Gourmet Garden makes some awesome herb pastes that can save you a ton of time in the kitchen!  *Not a paid promotion by any means.  I'm just a busy chic!  If you need to use fresh ginger, by all means, do so.
1 Tbsp ginger paste
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Set aside and allow to marinate.
II.  The Dressing. 
All we do here is mix together, bring to a boil and reduce until thickened a bit.  Then let it cool. 
1 cup light coconut milk
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter (I can't lie, I love Peter Pan Honey Roasted.  But use what you prefer.)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp red curry paste
1/2 - 1 tsp sambal oelek
1 tsp corn starch 
 Whisk together until smooth.
 Poor into a small saucepan.
 Bring to a nice boil.
Cook until the dressing has reduced (observe the level on the side of the pot) and thickened a bit. Tasted the sauce and see if it tastes "flat."  If so, add a couple pinches of kosher salt to finish.  Set aside to cool.

III.  Grill the Chicken.  
You can obviously do this on your outside grill, but it works equally well on the stovetop.  
Non-stick cooking spray of your choice
Make sure your pan is really nice and hot.  When you put the chicken down, you should be able to hear them!  Also, once you put them down, leave them alone!  They will naturally release from the pan when they are ready.  If they are still "sticking" to the pan, they are NOT ready to be turned.
Grill on both sides until juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife.  But please do not overcook them.  We want nice, juicy chicken.  Dry chicken is not yummy!  Set aside and allow them to rest without cutting them for a few minutes.   You can be cutting your veggies or something.
**Salad/Skewer Diversion**
Okay, so if you have non-salad eaters at your place, I did mention that you might consider using this recipe for skewers with a peanut sauce.  Yep.  So I made my Littles a pot of rice pilaf to go with it and this was their meal.  It was a home run for them!  
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Thai Chicken Skewers with Peanut Dipping Sauce
IV.  Salad Assembly
Nothing but putting it all together.  No right or wrong way.  Want more or less of something?  Want a different thing?  It's your call.  It's your meal.  

I started with a bed of Romaine and added a nice handful of crunchy coleslaw blend.  The one with the purple cabbage and carrots.  I love lots of color in my salads.  
Not that my chicken has had time to rest, I cut a chicken breast into pretty strips.  
I added the chicken strips to the salad.  I can already tell that this is going to be enough salad for two meals.  OMG!  
Add a handful of sweet, ripe mango chunks.
Add some sweet red pepper strips.
 For fun, I added a few rice noodles.  
Now a few chopped peanuts.  It wouldn't be Thai without peanuts.
Some cool crisp cucumber strips.
Now when ready to serve, drizzle on some of your cooled peanut dressing.
Here we have a salad that is bright and exciting with a balance of flavors, textures and hopefully hits all the different parts of your palate!
 Okay, and for real... share with someone!  LOL!!!

Here are some great bonus recipes I hope you will enjoy:
Great for those kids who are hanging around for summer!
menumusings.com

Gluten free.  Low carb.  And all that other goodness you Garden Club ladies are looking for. 
menumusings.com

For those of you looking for a great "get together" appetizer for friends and fun!  
menumusings.com

One of America's favorite go-to dinner party recipes... for family, for friends, for neighbors, for the boss, for your sweetheart, for your roomies!  And it's all fresh!!  
menumusings.com

Because cooking fish can be a little intimidating.  Here's a sure bet for one of summer's finest catches! Just pop it in the oven with this amazing topping!  
menumusings.com

Let's get something straight.  There's not a thing wrong with semi-homemade!  A fabulous dessert will end the night right with your guests and your family! 
menumusings.com
Written Method:

Step-by-Step Photos:
Here's the plan of attack.  Get the chicken marinating in all this goodness.  Make the dressing.  Grill the chicken.  Make the salad.  Bam!  

I.  Marinate the chicken.
This is nothing more complicated than 1 - season, and 2 - mix.  The lime juice and coconut milk with help tenderize the chicken while it marinates and we make the dressing.  Using the Monterey chicken seasoning lets us get away with using only one seasoning rather than several (a real time saver here).

If you can't find ginger paste, use finely chopped, peeled ginger.
II.  The Dressing. 
All we do here is mix together, bring to a boil and reduce until thickened a bit.  Then let it cool. 
Cook until the dressing has reduced (observe the level on the side of the pot) and thickened a bit. Tasted the sauce and see if it tastes "flat."  If so, add a couple pinches of kosher salt to finish.  Set aside to cool.
III.  Grill the Chicken.  
You can obviously do this on your outside grill, but it works equally well on the stovetop.  
Make sure your pan is really nice and hot.  When you put the chicken down, you should be able to hear them!  Also, once you put them down, leave them alone!  They will naturally release from the pan when they are ready.  If they are still "sticking" to the pan, they are NOT ready to be turned.
Grill on both sides until juices run clear when pierced with a sharp knife.  But please do not overcook them.  We want nice, juicy chicken.  Dry chicken is not yummy!  Set aside and allow them to rest without cutting them for a few minutes.   You can be cutting your veggies or something.
**Salad/Skewer Diversion**
Okay, so if you have non-salad eaters at your place, I did mention that you might consider using this recipe for skewers with a peanut sauce.  
IV.  Salad Assembly
Nothing but putting it all together.  No right or wrong way.  Want more or less of something?  Want a different thing?  It's your call.  It's your meal.  

I started with a bed of Romaine and added a nice handful of crunchy coleslaw blend.  The one with the purple cabbage and carrots.  I love lots of color in my salads.  
Not that my chicken has had time to rest, I cut a chicken breast into pretty strips.  
I added the chicken strips to the salad.
Add a handful of sweet, ripe mango chunks.
Add some sweet red pepper strips.
For fun, I added a few rice noodles.  
Now a few chopped peanuts.  It wouldn't be Thai without peanuts.
Some cool crisp cucumber strips.
Now when ready to serve, drizzle on some of your cooled peanut dressing.
Here we have a salad that is bright and exciting with a balance of flavors, textures and hopefully hits all the different parts of your palate!
Okay, and for real... share with someone!  LOL!!!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Chicken Fajita Burrito Bowls

menumusings.com
I mean who doesn't love a good Mexican feast, right?  I certainly do!  But I'm also savvy enough to know that too many ... um... feasts brings out the clothes fairy and somehow my pants start shrinking. So the kids and I took a different approach to this and had a healthier version of a Mexican feast. We grilled the chicken, cut out the tortilla and replaced it with brown rice, added some healthy veggies (still trying to eat that rainbow), a pop of zing with some zesty condiments and even managed to squeeze in a little creamy light sour cream and of course some very flavorful crunchies! 

We actually did have every intent to put these in bowls - ha.  But we were trying to spread everything out pretty so we had to settle for plates.  This super healthy meal went over like a champ with my littles, and I was a little bit surprised because they sort of raised their eyebrows when I told them we were going the brown rice route.  I am thankful, though, of how they get on board when I tell them that we are trying to do a recipe makeover to make something healthier.  They almost take it on as a personal mission.  #teamwork! Another thing about this meal is that you could have all of these elements made up ahead of time and throw this together for some amazing lunches! 


Ingredients:
menumusings.com

  • Southwestern marinated chicken breasts
    • I purchased a pack that came already seasoned - great time saver!
  • Sweet corn niblets, drained or cut from the ear
  • Canned black beans, drained and rinsed
    • seasoned with cumin
  • Red and yellow bell pepper strips
  • Fajita seasoning
  • Green onion tops, chopped
  • Grape tomatoes, cut in half
  • Caramelized onions
  • Non-stick cooking spray 
  • Tortilla strips
    • I used the chili lime flavored ones 
  • brown rice
    • save time by using instant brown rice
    • make it with chicken broth!  :) 
  • Jarred taco sauce
  • Jarred salsa verde 

Step-by-Step Photos:
SO MANY of these elements can be done ahead of time for a super quick dinner!
Drain a can of corn.
corn niblets, drained
Drain and rinse a can of black beans.  Season liberally with cumin for that great Mexican flavor.
black beans, drained and rinsed
I grabbed a handful of pepper strips from the freezer.  As I always say, the frozen ones break down faster, so they are perfect for this application.  I'm going to sauté them - but NOT in butter. I'm going to just use water.  Yep.  I'll keep adding water until they are soft.  As it cooks out, I'll add more.  I'm going for healthy, here.
red and yellow bell pepper strips in water
To add flavor to my pepper strips (since I'm not cooking them in butter or oil), I'm going to add some fajita seasoning to them.  This will really wake them up.
fajita seasoning 
 Chop some green onion tops.  They look really pretty if you slice them on the bias.
green onion tops, sliced thinly
 Cut some grape tomatoes.  These are the sweetest.  :)
grape tomatoes cut in half
To my bell peppers, I'm adding some caramelized onions.  Love, love, love caramelized onions.  Keep adding water if you need to.
caramelized onions, yellow and red bell peppers
While the veggies are still cooking down, let's cook the chicken.  I am preparing my cast iron grill pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Still trying to be healthy here.  
non-stick cooking spray
When the pan is really hot, add the southwestern seasoned chicken breasts.  You should hear it sizzle when you add them.  If you don't hear that, your pan is not hot enough.  Once you put them in there, don't mess with them.  Just leave them along for a while.  Allow the pan to do its thing so you can get some good grill marks.  They should release easily and not stick when they are ready to be flipped.
Southwestern seasoned chicken
Okay, let's do the other side.  I can't give you an exact cooking time.  It depends on the thickness of your chicken, your pan, the BTUs of your range, etc.
Chicken breasts cooking
Once your chicken are cooked through and the juices are clear (but please not overcooked), allow them to just rest while you are putting everything else together.
Chicken resting
I will say that you really should NOT open these until you are ready to use them.  Somehow if you open them just to "taste" them... they may evaporate straight out of the bag.  I know, right?  It didn't make sense to me, either.  :/ 
Here were the zip and zing we added to the top.  Yep, straight from the jar.
All you do is put a little of each item on the plates, slice the chicken, top it off with your crunchies and sauces, and away you go!
I'm sorry I didn't take a photo of the brown rice.  To save time, I used instant brown rice that I prepared with chicken broth to infuse extra flavor into it.  You can do that while your chicken is cooking.  If you make long cooking brown rice, start it first.
So here we have a gorgeous, balanced burrito bowl (plate?) that still gives us lots of flavor and crunchies, but a healthier version.
I hope you've enjoyed this recipe!  Here are some others I think you'll like:
Tiger Tail Pasta - a creamy, slightly spicy pasta dish with crawfish perfect for crowds. (could sub chicken)

Mexican Salsa - great summer fun!  Throw it all in the food processor and let it go!
menumusings.com

Alice Springs Chicken - a favorite of a that steakhouse chain!
menumusings.com
Mississippi Mud Puddles - great for grab-your-own parties!
menumusings.com
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Written Method:
SO MANY of these elements can be done ahead of time for a super quick dinner! 
  • If you make long cooking brown rice, start it first. 
  • Drain a can of corn.
  • Drain and rinse a can of black beans.  
  • Season liberally the beans with cumin for that great Mexican flavor.
  • Grab a handful of pepper strips from the freezer.  Sauté them in water until they are soft.  As it cooks out, add more.   
  • To add flavor to the pepper strips (since we are not cooking them in butter or oil), add some fajita seasoning to them.  This will really wake them up.
  • Chop some green onion tops.  They look really pretty if you slice them on the bias.
  • Cut some grape tomatoes.  These are the sweetest.  :) 
  • To my bell peppers, add some caramelized onions.  Keep adding water if you need to.
  • While the veggies are still cooking down, let's cook the chicken.  Prepare a cast iron grill pan with non-stick cooking spray.  Still trying to be healthy here.  
  • When the pan is really hot, add the southwestern seasoned chicken breasts.  You should hear it sizzle when you add them.  If you don't hear that, your pan is not hot enough.  Once you put them in there, don't mess with them.  Just leave them along for a while.  Allow the pan to do its thing so you can get some good grill marks.  They should release easily and not stick when they are ready to be flipped. 
  • If using instant brown rice, make it while chicken is cooking.  Prepare it with chicken broth to infuse extra flavor into it. 
  • Okay, let's do the other side.  I can't give you an exact cooking time.  It depends on the thickness of your chicken, your pan, the BTUs of your range, etc. 
  • Once your chicken are cooked through and the juices are clear (but please not overcooked), allow them to just rest while you are putting everything else together. 
  • All you do is put a little of each item on the plates, slice the chicken, top it off with your crunchies and sauces, and away you go! 

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